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City Arts & Lectures
68 minutes | Jun 6, 2021
High on the Hog: Dr. Jessica B. Harris with Samin Nosrat
Dr. Jessica B. Harris is the preeminent authority on the culinary culture of the African Diaspora. Harris has spent over three decades studying African food and its migration. To understand the rich and complex flavors of African American cuisine requires looking at the culinary cultures of the African continent and the slave trade that brought Africans to America. Harris is the author of twelve critically acclaimed cookbooks documenting the foods and foodways of the African Diaspora including Iron Pots and Wooden Spoons: Africa’s Gifts to New World Cooking and The Welcome Table: African-American Heritage Cooking. Her most recent book is My Soul Looks Back: A Memoir. Netflix has just made a series based on Harris’s seminal book “High on the Hog”. On May 13, 2021, Harris spoke with chef and author Samin Nosrat, whose book “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat” was also made into a Netflix series.
68 minutes | May 30, 2021
In 2018, Stacey Abrams lost her bid to be governor of Georgia. It was a huge disappointment – she was the first Black woman to become the gubernatorial nominee of a major party in the US. It was also unexpected – Abrams won more votes than any Democrat in Georgia’s history. The surprise outcome had much to do with the state’s mismanagement of the election. After she lost, Abrams created the voting rights organization Fair Fight. Since 2018, she’s been instrumental in driving an enormous number of voter registrations in Georgia – those voters were critical in turning Georgia blue in the 2020 presidential election and in electing two Democratic Senators. On May 13, 2021, Stacey Abrams talked to journalist Rebecca Traister about protecting our democracy, and some of her many other pursuits – including writing legal thrillers, including her newest “While Justice Sleeps”.
54 minutes | May 23, 2021
Bryan Stevenson is a lawyer who’s brought national attention to the failures of America’s criminal justice system. He’s the founding director of the Equal Justice Institute in Montgomery, Alabama. Under his leadership, EJI has won major legal challenges, confronting abuse of the incarcerated and of the mentally ill, and exonerating innocent Death Row inmates. We’ll hear Stevenson talk to Chesa Boudin, San Francisco’s District Attorney, and Rachel Marshall. This conversation was recorded on December 14, 2020, for “Chasing Justice”, a podcast hosted by Boudin and Marshall.
53 minutes | May 23, 2021
As an activist fighting for racial and social equality, Tamika Mallory has inspired countless others to get involved with these issues – and never more so than when the speech she made during the protests following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis went viral. Mallory grew up in an activist family; her parents were founding members of the civil rights organization National Action Network. She would go on to become its youngest ever executive director. On May 14, 2021, Tamika Mallory talked with Courtney Martin, about her book “State of Emergency” and her life as an activist.
64 minutes | May 16, 2021
David Mitchell and Pico Iyer
This week, we’ll listen to a conversation with David Mitchell and Pico Iyer, recorded on May 8, 2021. David Mitchell’s many novels include Cloud Atlas, The Bone Clocks, and Ghostwritten. . His most recent novel, Utopia Avenue, follows the strangest British band you’ve never heard of. Mitchell’s stories often weave together the supernatural and the philosophical. He’s also one of the most structurally inventive writers of our time, featuring nonlinear storylines and multiple genres within a single book. Pico Iyer is a travel writer, essayist, and novelist, whose many books include Video Night in Kathmandu and The Lady and the Monk.
64 minutes | May 9, 2021
Rachel Kushner is the author of several novels including The Mars Room and The Flamethrowers. Her work has been compared to Joan Didion’s, and that of Don DeLillo, a literary mentor to Kushner. Kushner’s newest book, The Hard Crowd, is a collection of essays from the past 20 years that showcase her intellect and diverse interests, from muscle cars to postmodern art and politics. She has received grants and prizes from the Guggenheim Foundation and the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and her fiction and essays have appeared in The New Yorker and The New York Times Magazine. On April 29, 2021, Rachel Kushner talked with Heidi Julavits about the art of writing and the places and people that inspire her.
62 minutes | May 2, 2021
Astra Taylor and Robert Reich
This week, our guests are Astra Taylor and Robert Reich. Taylor is an activist, author, and documentary filmmaker whose films include What is Democracy? (2018) and An Examined Life (2008). Last year, at the onset of the pandemic, Taylor joined economist Robert Reich to discuss his just-published book, The System. It was the very beginning of COVID-19’s complete upheaval of normal life, and Reich made a plea for government to understand the moment as a health crisis, not an economic one. On April 19, 2021, Taylor and Reich returned to reflect on the past year, from racial reckoning to widening income inequality – and to discuss Taylor’s new book, Remake the World: Essays, Reflections, Rebellions. In it, Taylor invites us to imagine how things could be different while never losing sight of the strategic question of how change actually happens.
59 minutes | Apr 25, 2021
This week, we present a conversation with choreographer Alonzo King. He’s the artistic director of LINES Ballet, a contemporary dance company in San Francisco. He founded it in 1982, and has revolutionized the way we view dance. King’s choreography includes a blend of powerful and tender emotion, and unbelievable feats of athleticism. LINES Ballet looks and moves unlike any other ballet company, and King’s art has always spoken to the moment, politically and spiritually. On April 14, 2021, Alonzo King spoke with Steven Winn about his artistic process and the inspiration he took from his parents, who were both civil rights activists.
64 minutes | Apr 18, 2021
The Catastrophist - Lauren Gunderson and Nathan Wolf
Playwright Lauren Gunderson’s work is often based on the lives of historical figures – scientists like Marie Curie and Isaac Newton, and political figures such as the first woman elected to Congress. Gunderson didn’t have to travel far to research her newest play, The Catastrophist – the one-man play centers on her husband, virologist Nathan Wolf. One of Wolf’s areas of expertise – biological threats that can lead to pandemics. On April 8, 2021, Adam Savage talked to Gunderson and Wolf about the play, their respective careers, and the pandemic’s effect on theater.
70 minutes | Apr 11, 2021
Ocean Vuong and Tommy Orange
This week, we’ll hear a conversation between two writers with unique perspectives on America. Ocean Vuong is a poet and the author of the novel On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. The story closely mirrors Vuong’s own life: born in Viet Nam, he was two years old when his family left a refugee camp in the Philippines to come to the US. Tommy Orange published his debut novel, There There, in 2018; it’s about the complex and painful history of a multi-generational Native American family in Oakland. On February 3, 2020, Ocean Vuong and Tommy Orange came to the Sydney Goldstein Theater in San Francisco. It was a powerful evening – a few times you could hear members of the audience gasp as conversation literally took their breath away. It was City Arts & Lectures’ last live event before the COVID-19 pandemic kept us from gathering – of course we didn’t know that at the time, but we’ve returned to this conversation for inspiration many times since then.
67 minutes | Apr 4, 2021
Mindfulness and Medicine, with Larry Brilliant and Jack Kornfield
This week, our guests bring us unique perspectives on life during a pandemic. Larry Brilliant is a renowned epidemiologist whose work with the World Health Organization helped eradicate smallpox, giving him keen insights into how governments can help tackle global disease. In a new book, Sometimes Brilliant, he reflects on his remarkable life and his extraordinary experiences as a doctor, innovator, philanthropist, and cultural revolutionary. Jack Kornfield was one of the first people to introduce Buddhist mindfulness practices to the West over 40 years ago. His many books include The Wise Heart: A Guide to the Universal Teachings of Buddhist Psychology, A Path with Heart, and After the Ecstasy, the Laundry. On March 23, 2021, Larry Brilliant and Jack Kornfield joined us for a conversation about mindfulness and medicine. The two talked about our individual and collective responses to the coronavirus pandemic, what it will take to move beyond it, and how we might promote well-being during this uncertain time.
64 minutes | Mar 28, 2021
Jenny Offill is the author of the novels Last Things, Dept. of Speculation, and, most recently, Weather. One of the pleasures of reading Offill’s books is hearing the emotional struggles and ambivalent attitudes of very honest narrators. In Weather, the concerns of daily life and parenting combine with the looming apocalypse of climate change. Both hilarious and heartbreaking, the novel asks readers to think about the mundane ways we live and grapple with our rapidly deteriorating environment. Offill lives in upstate New York and teaches at Syracuse University and Queens University. On March 18, 2021, Jenny Offill talked via videoconference with Brit Marling, an actor and writer who has focused on creating projects that offer counter-narratives to the more common ones diminishing women’s worth.
63 minutes | Mar 21, 2021
Reuben Jonathan Miller
There are over 2 million people incarcerated in the United States – but tens of millions more who are living with criminal records. This week, we’ll hear about the constraints and challenges faced by formerly incarcerated people. Reuben Jonathan Miller is a sociologist, criminologist and a social worker who teaches at the University of Chicago in the School of Social Service Administration where he studies and writes about race, democracy, and the social life of the city. His book, Halfway Home: Race, Punishment, and the Afterlife of Mass Incarceration, shows that the American justice system was not created to rehabilitate, and how parole is structured to keep classes of Americans impoverished, unstable, and disenfranchised long after they’ve paid their debt to society. On March 8, 2021, Dr. Miller had a conversation with Terah Lawyer, an advocate for incarcerated people for more than a decade. Ms. Lawyer is herself a formerly incarcerated person, and that experience informs her commitment to improving the justice system.
60 minutes | Mar 19, 2021
Rebecca Handler and Daniel Handler
In this City Arts & Lectures Podcast exclusive, Daniel Handler and Rebecca Handler talk about family and work in a uniquely familiar conversation that only siblings could have. Rebecca Handler is a writer who lives and works in San Francisco. Her debut novel Edie Richter Is Not Alone features a protagonist who moves with her family to Perth, Australia following the death of her father. There, she finds herself isolated and forced to confront a painful secret from her past. Daniel Handler is the author of many books, perhaps best known for A Series of Unfortunate Events, penned under the pseudonym Lemony Snicket.
65 minutes | Mar 14, 2021
Poet, memorist, and essayist Patricia Lockwood is perhaps best known for her memoir Priestdaddy, an extraordinarily funny account of growing up the daughter of the most singular Catholic priest in America. Lockwood has just published her first novel, No One is Talking About This, reckons with the feeling of being eternally online, unable to shut off the feed that keeps on scrolling, no matter what we do to stop it. She’s a frequent contributor to the London Review of Books, and has a vast following on Twitter, which regularly features her Internet-famous cat, Miette. Lockwood is the author of the two poetry collections Balloon Pop Outlaw Black and Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals. On March 1, 2021, Patricia Lockwood spoke with author Sheila Heti about her new book. The two writers also shared their perspectives on grief, creativity, and the ephemeral and addictive world of the internet.
67 minutes | Mar 7, 2021
This week, our guest is novelist Susan Choi. She’s the author of five books, most recently “Trust Exercise”. It centers on a group of teenagers at a competitive art school in 1980s suburbia. What starts out as something straightforward becomes more complex – and with an experimental narrative structure that concludes with a surprise twist. The book won the 2019 National Book Award for fiction. Choi teaches fiction writing at Yale and lives in Brooklyn. On February 16, 2021, Susan Choi spoke with Rachel Khong, the author of “Goodbye, Vitamin”. Choi described growing up as one of a few people of color in her Indiana town, and how teaching writing has made her a better writer.
67 minutes | Feb 28, 2021
Our guest is Lily King, the award-winning author of five novels. Her 2014 novel “Euphoria” was inspired by the life of anthropologist Margaret Mead. Last year, King published “Writers and Lovers”, the story of an aspiring author finding her way in the world. Written with her trademark humor, heart, and intelligence, “Writers & Lovers” explores the terrifying and exhilarating leap between the end of one phase of life and the beginning of another. On February 18, 2021, Lily King talked with Isabel Duffy about her creative process and how she herself forged a literary path.
68 minutes | Feb 21, 2021
The Science of Sleep with Matthew Walker
Why do humans sleep? What is sleep’s evolutionary basis? And what is really going on while we sleep? This week, we broadcast a conversation with cognitive neuroscientist Matthew Walker, talking to Indre Viskontas, originally recorded in 2015. Walker is an expert in sleep science, and his research reveals that every tissue in the body and every process within the brain is enhanced as we sleep – and impaired when we’re not sleeping enough. His research also examines the effects of stress, medications, and alcohol on sleep, and the ways we can improve our sleeping habits.
70 minutes | Feb 7, 2021
Dr. Carl Hart "Drug Use for Grown-Ups"
Dr. Carl Hart is a neuroscientist and psychologist at Columbia University whose research focuses on the effects of psychoactive drugs on the brain. He’ll talk about his positions on recreational drug use, which continue to spark controversy and are often at odds with others in his field. Hart’s latest book, Drug Use for Grown-Ups: Chasing Liberty in the Land of Fear, draws on decades of research and his own personal experience to argue that the criminalization and demonization of drug use, rather than drugs themselves, has been a scourge on America and reinforced this country’s enduring structural racism. Hart is also the author of High Price, and co-author of the textbook Drugs, Society and Human Behavior. On January 27, 2021, Carl Hart spoke with Lara Bazelon, a professor of law at the University of San Francisco.
66 minutes | Jan 31, 2021
This week, a conversation with filmmaker Cheryl Dunye. Dunye first emerged in the 1990’s as part of the “Queer New Wave”, and much of her work explores questions of race and gender, using her own experience as a lens. Her debut feature film, “The Watermelon Woman”, is now considered a classic of queer cinema, and her style – a mixture of documentary aesthetic and fictive elements – has earned the term “Dunyementary”. Her films, including a collection of her documentary shorts, were recently added to the Criterion Channel. More recently, Dunye has directed television shows including “Dear White People”, “Queen Sugar”, and “Lovecraft Country”. On November 16, 2020, Cheryl Dunye talked with Ra Malika Imhotep, in a conversation co-presented with the Criterion Channel.
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